Berlin (AFP) – Following the resignation of their billionaire backer, cash-strapped Bundesliga club Schalke admitted Wednesday they must make “massive savings” in order to survive after their struggling finances were further hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Today is a turning point for Schalke. There cannot be a continuation of the current situation,” admitted board member Alexander Jobst.
Jobst insists “massive savings” must be made, the “stop button” has been pressed in many areas of the club’s finances and Schalke’s “sporting goals” must be adjusted in the coming seasons.
“In the past months, Schalke 04 has presented a miserable public image,” he said, apologising for “mistakes we made which must not happen again in the future”.
“We know that we have gambled away trust and scared the fans,” he added.
Schalke are one of Germany’s biggest clubs, yet even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Europe in March they already had debts of 197 million euros ($220 million), which Jobst warned at the time threatened their existence.
Magazine Kicker has claimed the pandemic would leave a third of the clubs in the country’s top two tiers fighting for survival.
When German football restarted behind closed doors in May after a two-month hiatus, Schalke lost two million euros in revenue for each of their four home games without fans.
Their financial problems were exacerbated in recent years by missing out on lucrative Champions League qualification in three of the last four seasons.
Last Saturday, they finished this season with a new club record of 16 games without a win following a 4-0 drubbing at Freiburg.
– ‘Don’t bet on future’ –
Tuesday’s resignation of wealthy club chairman Clemens Toennies after 19 years in charge following protests by supporters has left the club reeling.
A week after the head of finances walked away, Toennies also quit with fans furious about his running of the club.
Away from football, the billionaire meat manufacturer was already under fire over conditions at his factory, which led to an outbreak of 15,000 cases of the coronavirus.
The 64-year-old had also made an embattled start to last season, voluntarily stepping back for three months as Schalke chairman over allegedly racist comments he made in August.
In the meantime, Schalke has reportedly secured 40 million-euro guarantee from its home state of North Rhine-Westphalia to help the club survive.
“We are subject to a secrecy period, which we will comply with,” Jobst said Wednesday, without denying the reports.
Moving forward, Schalke head coach David Wagner says he now expects to “have to put together a powerful squad with a small budget” for next season.
On Sunday, Munich’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung said Schalke are looking to bring in a 2.5 million-euro annual salary cap for future player contracts.
Sports director Jochen Schneider painted a bleak picture, adding “we can no longer bet on the future”.
For next season, Schalke have already lost two of their best players.
Goalkeeper Alexander Nuebel has joined Bayern Munich on a free transfer, while right-back Jonjoe Kenny, who was on loan from Everton, has returned to England.